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Published September 16, 2013, 06:47 PM

60 on 6: Farm families held hostage in 1996

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It would be a Clay County Deputy who pulled the trigger and fired a shot that saved the life of a 10-year-old girl in a bizarre hostage and stand-off 17 years ago.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It would be a Clay County Deputy who pulled the trigger and fired a shot that saved the life of a 10-year-old girl in a bizarre hostage and stand-off 17 years ago.

It happened just 10 miles south of Fargo-Moorhead at a farmhouse in 1996.

As part of our 60th anniversary this summer, in this "60 on 6," it was a made for television drama that ended in gunfire.

To this day, it is still unclear why masked gunmen entered farmhouses near Rustad, robbing farm families, and took them hostage; any of the victims related.

“Huge barrel shotgun, they said, we are the police, this is a drug raid, get on the ground.”

The men and women hostages were separated. As other relatives became suspicious and showed up at the John Bye farm, they too were taken hostage; nearly a dozen in all.

“All you are thinking about is your family; just hoping and praying.”

The gunmen even forced two men to drive into Fargo-Moorhead and get money from the ATM.

“And I punched in my number and my mom's pin number and I thought 500 each; 1,000 would send them on their way.”

But perhaps the scariest moment came when the gunmen took then 10-year-old Kristen Erickson hostage after police surrounded the rural Rustad farm. Threatening to kill the girl, one of the bad guys stole a police car and led an army of law enforcement on a chase. It ended in a development near 52nd Avenue South in gunfire.

“Got stuck, had the girl around the waist, held a gun to her head and said he was going to kill her right now.”

“I was so scared, I was crying. It scared me so much.”

A split-second decision to take out the bad guy, as he threatened to shoot the 10-year-old girl…

“I just want to tell everyone I am fine and I want to thank the police for saving my life.”

The drama did not end there. Some of the hostage takers fled into the icy cold January day. Airplanes, snowmobiles and dogs all searched for them, farm families locked their doors and the victims shared the dramatic story.

Days later: A party for Kristen Erickson. She endured hours of terror that day and night, and friends and family celebrated her courage

The man who took 10-year-old Kristen Erickson hostage, and was shot in the face, would serve time in a federal prison for kidnapping.

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